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Aerial bombings driving more refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile into Ethiopia – UN

28 October 2011 – Aerial bombings in Sudan’s Blue Nile state are driving a new wave of refugees into Ethiopia, with nearly 2,000 arriving in the last four days alone, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

The new arrivals at the border area of Kurmuk, one of several refugee entry points into Ethiopia and considered to be the busiest, are mostly women, children and the elderly, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“They tell us they fled bombings and fear of bombings by Antonov planes in areas including Bau, Sali and Dinduro, all located between Kurmuk and the Blue Nile capital, Damazine,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva.

“There are also reports that armed militia on the Sudanese side of the Kurmuk border have warned the community to leave the area, possibly in preparation for a ground offensive,” he added.

UNHCR estimates that 28,700 refugees have fled Blue Nile state since the fighting began in early September between the Sudanese army and rebels with the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N). Given the current situation in Blue Nile, more refugees are expected to arrive in Ethiopia, the agency said.

Refugees are being encouraged to relocate from the border area to Tongo camp, about 200 kilometres from Kurmuk. Others are at the Sherkole camp, or among host communities near the border.

UNHCR is working with the Ethiopian authorities to expand Tongo camp in anticipation of a further influx, Mr. Edwards said, adding that with ongoing construction Tongo will be able to host some 7,000 refugees. Along with its governmental partners, it is also exploring the feasibility of additional camp sites.

The agency is urging the international community to step up their response to this “growing” crisis, and in particular to support its $10 million appeal to meet the urgent needs of the refugees and to support Ethiopia, which is already hosting more than 174,000 Somali refugees.

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